Monthly Archives: February 2013

Samuel James

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Frontier, Brunswick, Maine

I had never seen Samuel James before and it’s a shame I waited so long. The stars aligned, though, and I was excited to learn he’d be coming to Frontier in Brunswick just a day after I arrived home from a week in Panama during my February vacation. I love not having to drive all the way to Portland for a show, so I asked my friend Shaun to come and Gardiner friends Andrea and Ryan and I carpooled down in a bit of a storm. Ryan (basically) called me a cat lady in the car (I have two beloved cats—Boris and Yeltsin), but I brought him to the show anyhow. He’s lucky I did, too.

After a delightful dinner at Frontier (the food really is so good, and Andrea appreciates the vegan options), we grabbed seats in the front row of Frontier’s intimate theatre for the 8pm show. It was sold out despite the weather, and I knew that was a good indication that other people already knew what I’d assumed—you should not miss Samuel James live.

I felt like I was in his living room the whole night. SJ is a charming and honest storyteller. I was blown away by his creative and powerful guitar playing and strong, raspy voice. I liked how he could play a serious song—“Baby Doll”—about a woman who tried to kill him, but still make jokes about it afterwards. One of my favorite SJ jokes was a song intro. He said, “This is a song that’s a true story. It’s an instrumental. Let that sink in.” I laughed all night. I also enjoyed his story about a tour in France where he knew he’d get sick even though he never does because everyone there coughed with their mouths open. Sure enough, he got sicker and sicker over the course of the tour. By the time he made it to England, he was on stage criticizing the newest James Bond film. At least he didn’t miss a show on tour, I guess? He’s off to tour Russia in April.

Samuel James

Samuel James

SJ kept a dialogue with the audience going all evening. He asked us after every song if there were questions and there were! I enjoyed the informality and the kind exchange of curiosity back and forth with the audience. He joked all night about stopping his set to play 2 Live Crew covers, but there were kids in the audience and he ultimately thought it wouldn’t be the right way to go. I also learned that his recurring nightmare is that one of his guitar strings will snap when he’s tuning and it will stab him in the eye. I don’t usually learn this much about a performer in a night, and I loved it.

I was floored when SJ told us that he’d only been playing guitar for about ten years. I have been playing for almost fifteen and now I feel like a total guitar loser. He’d worked the counter at a gym in Portland all those years ago and was a portrait artist. A patron of the gym offered him a show at her gallery and he used the money he’d saved up to pay to frame his work for the show. A bad breakup in the interim sent him for three months to escape to Ireland where he befriended a street guitar performer. He picked up the guitar then and never went back. If that guy could see him now, he’d be so impressed. Listening to Samuel James play guitar is a transcendent experience. He is a serious talent.

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I liked his alternating country and bluesy, zydeco infused songs on classical guitar and dobro and his covers of “Folsom Prison” (in honor of Johnny Cash’s birthday), Kris Kristofferson, Townes Van Zandt, and John Lee Hooker. He surely has songwriting chops, though. I especially liked the song (“Nineteen”) he wrote for his dad that showed off his guitar percussion skills. Samuel James can make a lot of noise for just one guy.

After an intermission, SJ led us in a round of “Twinkle, Twinkle,” a song requested by a toddler in the audience. It was adorable. To say that Samuel James is a good guy might be an understatement. In the world of music, his approachability and humility is a breath of fresh air. His cover of John Lee Hooker’s “Hobo Blues” was breathtaking. He tried to leave the stage after it, but we pushed for another song and he obliged with another amazing piece featuring a fierce harmonica part. He thanked us warmly for coming and told us he’d “never played a show in this town that didn’t go great.” His show was the perfect antidote for a cold, snowy night.

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Rockin' out

Rockin’ out

I wanted to say hello after the show because Samuel James and I have a mutual friend—Portland-based singer songwriter Max Garcia Conover. When I introduced myself, SJ knew who I was because I’d posted on his Facebook wall that I was excited for the show. We chatted about his upcoming tour in Russia and artist residency at Breakwater School, and how much we both love and admire our dear friend Max. He was such a nice guy—totally unaffected by his talent.

Ryan (who is far more knowledgeable about guitarists than I am) said SJ reminded him of Blind Willie McTell on Piedmont guitar and also Mississippi Fred McDowell. I am a primarily folk/indie girl, so I resorted to Google to figure out who they are. Now that I know those guys are both guitar legends, I realize Ryan was giving Samuel James quite a compliment. It’s well deserved.

Thanks, Samuel James. You rock.

xo,

bree

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The Lighthouse and the Whaler and Matt Pond

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

I’m back from a relaxing week in sunny Panama! Here’s what I saw:

Santa Clara, Panama

Santa Clara, Panama

Back to business. I’d gotten four hours of sleep the night before because I went to see Mumford & Sons in Boston, but I was absolutely determined not to miss Cleveland’s The Lighthouse and the Whaler. My friend Shea introduced them to over a year ago, and we’re definitely ahead of the game on this group. They’ll be famous eventually, so *you can look them up now and be “in the know,” or you can wait until everyone else knows about them, too.

Bartlett and I met up with our friends Erika and Dave at El Rayo for dinner. Have you had their pineapple with sea salt and chili powder? So good. We made our way over to Port City Music Hall just in time to take our second row center spots as TLATW took the stage. I’d already decided that even though Jukebox the Ghost was headlining and I like them, I just wasn’t up for staying out again that late two nights in a row on school nights and was going to go home after the second act, Matt Pond.

The Lighthouse and the Whaler stole the night anyhow. The multi instrumentalists traded instruments seamlessly and danced gracefully about the stage (note the blurry photos) as they played lovely pop songs. They reminded me a lot of Milo Greene, who I first saw and fell in love with in 2011, and who are finally now playing on the radio. (See above*). The Lighthouse and the Whaler plays pretty, ethereal music that was relatively upbeat in person. I have listened to their self-titled album a lot of times and really like it. I love their love song, “Venice,” and was glad to hear it live. Bartlett and I talked to Mark and Steve from the band later and they were so nice and appreciated our kind words. I’m always happy to see talented musicians who are humble and take the time to talk to their fans. Please, please, please check out this band. Here’s a link to their set on Seattle’s KEXP. You’ll be hearing more from them.

The Lighthouse and the Whaler

The Lighthouse and the Whaler

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Bartlett and I hung around for the long transition to Matt Pond’s set. I’d downloaded his EP, The Natural Lines, from NoiseTrade and like it a lot. I was expecting a guy and an acoustic guitar (much like Iron & Wine), but the set up indicated a full band show. The sound check took a long time and was kind of useless. I couldn’t hear Matt’s lyrics from the second row, and the music with a full band just didn’t do it for me. Besides that, Matt was awkward with the audience. He told us he’d gone to high school in New Hampshire, but had hurried out of that place. Maybe not the best way to win over an audience. He had a heckler in the crowd and gave the guy too much attention so it just continued. I think we were the first night of the tour, so maybe he was just nervous and working out the kinks. His new album, The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hand, had come out the day before and he was off to play on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon a couple of nights later. I prefer his older, acoustic stuff. As always, I want readers to make up their own minds, so check out Matt Pond’s “Love To Get Used” and see what you think.

Matt Pond

Matt Pond

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Bartlett and I decided we weren’t into it most of the way through Matt’s set, so we took off for the night at 9:45 and I was home at 10:30 on a school night! Seeing just The Lighthouse and the Whaler’s full set was absolutely worth the drive and effort.

xo,

bree

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Mumford & Sons, The Felice Brothers, and Ben Howard

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

TD Banknorth Garden, Boston, MA

My friend Marian was/is a superstar and had her GPS programmed, parking permit for the Garden printed, and delicious eggplant and mozzarella sandwiches from Terra Cotta Pasta Co. in South Portland purchased and ready for Molly, Emily, and I before 5pm. We were committed to getting to the venue early enough to catch Ben Howard’s set at 7. We hit some traffic around the Garden, but made it to the garage and our seats just a song or two into his set. I sat separately (when tickets go on sale for big shows that I know will sell out, I just buy a single ticket so I get closer to the stage) and my seat was really good. It was in the club section, so had a great view (and I had just picked up my new glasses, too, so I could really see) and a private area with concierges. It was cushy. The negative was that there was a group of eight or so Quebecois twenty-somethings behind me hooting and hollering and having a loud conversation throughout Ben’s entire set. I was not happy.

British singer songwriter Ben Howard (you’ve definitely heard his popular song, “Only Love”) sounded great and was warm with the audience. His set was mellow, though, and with just him on acoustic guitar accompanied by cellist India Bourne, the sound just didn’t fill the room. I will certainly see him live sometime in a significantly smaller venue. I love his voice and his simple, but heartfelt songs. Check out his full set at Lowlands in Holland last August to get a fuller sense of his music.

Ben Howard with India Bourne

Ben Howard with India Bourne

The Felice Brothers from upstate New York were less my thing and they were backlit, which made them incredibly hard for me to see, too. I’d seen Simone Felice open for Mumford & Sons last summer in Portland, Maine at their Gentlemen of the Road Stopover, and I didn’t connect with his music. With the full band, the sound was far more rockin’ than I’d expected. There was a bit of a Dropkick Murphys vibe mixed with some zydeco influence. I called it zydeco many songs before someone in the band actually pulled out a washboard to play. The second half of their short set was folkier, and I’m happy whenever an accordion comes out at a show. I liked “Take This Bread” and “Whiskey In My Whiskey.” I think they wrapped their set with “Her Eyes Dart ‘Round.” I loved the line “what keeps me alive is the green in your eyes.” I’ll see them open for Josh Ritter in May at the State Theatre in Portland, Maine and will be interested to see how that show in a smaller venue compares.

I think the Felice Brothers were there somewhere...

I think the Felice Brothers were there somewhere…

The set up for British folk rockers Mumford & Sons took a while. The crew set up a curtain all the way around the stage and the crew in the front of the stage had to hold it in place so it didn’t overtake the first few rows of lucky fans in general admission. I was super jealous when I saw my friend Chris take his spot in the very front with the other concert photographers. Check out his photos from the evening at BostonThroughMyEyes.com.

Photographers lining up in the front. Hey, Chris!

Photographers lining up in the front. Hey, Chris!

Marcus Mumford, Ben Lovett, Winston Marshall, and Ted Dwane put on a heck of a show. They know how to fill a room. They formed in 2007, released Sigh No More in 2009, and followed up with Babel in 2012. They just performed at the Grammys a few nights ago where they took home the award for Album of the Year. Hugely popular, I wasn’t surprised that the show sold out in minutes. Marcus told us that their first gig in America was at a church in Allston. It must have been at the International Community Church. Boy would I have liked to have seen them there. Marcus gave a shout out to the Middle East in Cambridge, too, where they also played a great show early in their career.

Hey! It's Mumford & Sons!

Hey! It’s Mumford & Sons!

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Here’s a picture of Mumford & Son’s set list from setlist.fm:

M&S set

M&S set

They basically played every song they’ve recorded for us. I especially liked “Below My Feet,” which is my favorite song on Babel, “Timshel,” with the refrain “you are not alone in this,” and “Lover Of The Light” with Marcus on drums. At times there were up to a dozen musicians on stage. They filled the Garden with glorious, upbeat, harmonic sound.

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Marcus asked us if we’d been there to see Ben Howard. He said, “I just want to be him. He’s like Princess Diana back home.” I loved “Ghosts That We Knew.” The line “hold me still bury my heart next to yours” gave me chills. I appreciated the intensity of the song. Marcus was back on drums for their last song, “Dust Bowl Dance” off of Sigh No More. M&S completely rocked on that song and left us wanting more.

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I saw a line of security clear a path from the stage to the back of the GA section. M&S wasn’t far behind. They ran back to a tiny stage to sing a couple of songs—one acoustic and the other a cappella. Chris took a video of “Sister” (a cappella) which is at the bottom of his M&S post. Marcus had asked the audience to be really quiet so they could hear, but a lot of people had had far too many beers by then. That leads me to this observation of the evening—if you are at a concert, why aren’t you LISTENING to the music? I don’t get it. Some people talked ALL NIGHT LONG. Yuck. Back at the Garden, M&S ran back to the main stage to rock out on “The Cave.” It was a great end to a rock solid show.

Heading to the back!

Heading to the back!

A tiny surprise stage in the back of the GA section for the encore

A tiny surprise stage in the back of the GA section for the encore

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Goodnight!

Goodnight!

I met Marian, Molly, and Emily at the car and Marian ferried us back to Portland. We got pulled over for speeding and were let off with a friendly warning and a joke about how the Prius is only fuel efficient at certain speeds. I arrived back at Marian’s gorgeous home to three excited beagles.

PUPPIES!

PUPPIES!

I got four hours of sleep and headed north to school after somehow flooding Marian’s bathroom (which dripped down two stories—awesome) using the bear claw tub/shower. I may never be welcome back at her house, but boy we had a good last night together!

xo,

bree

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Martin Sexton with The Alternate Routes

Friday, January 25, 2013

State Theatre, Portland, Maine

My dear friend Chris Bartlett will add his thoughts about our evening soon, but I wanted to at least post the pictures I took when a group of us saw the incredibly talented folk/soul/gospel/preacher/singer Martin Sexton perform at the State Theatre a couple of weeks ago. He is absolutely best live. The first time I ever saw him was the same day my college boyfriend broke up with me at the beginning of summer vacation. I went to see Martin later that night with college friends and totally forgot how bummed I was about the breakup for the entire show. He profoundly changes his audience. It’s like going to a church revival. It’s good for the soul to see Martin Sexton. I call every venue he plays the “Temple of Marty.” I thought he decorated it quite appropriately with religious symbols that night, too.

Worshipping in the Temple of Marty

Worshipping in the Temple of Marty

I love The Alternate Routes and have seen them a few times. They sounded great as a stripped down folkier duo, but their full band shows are high energy and really fun. I loved hearing “Ordinary” and “The Future’s Nothing New” which features a toolbox as percussion. Tim was so humbled to be opening for Martin Sexton who he called “one of my heroes,” and was very appreciative that we’d come early to hear them play. We got to sing along on “Asked You Twice.” They’ll be back in town at One Longfellow Square on March 10.

Tim and Eric of The Alternate Routes

Tim and Eric of The Alternate Routes

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One of my favorite moments of the night was when Bartlett abruptly turned around to our friends Kay and Spud and shouted “Marty will melt your heart!” He later told Spud that Marty has “lungs this big” (insert gesture indicating size here), and that “he went to Costa Rica for lung implants.” Bartlett is a serious fan. We were both getting pretty giddy by then, I suppose.

Here’s Martin’s set list from the night from Instagram.

Martin Sexton's Setlist from Instagram

Martin Sexton’s set list from Instagram

He told us a lot’s changed since he was 19 and in a rock band—like how his lovely wife runs his merch table these days at shows. He followed up the tale with “Love Keep Us Together.” Guitar legend Duke Levine joined Martin on stage for a bunch of songs. “Beast In Me” was great. He dedicated “Diggin Me” to everyone on a first date in the audience. He sang “Friends Again” about mending fences with his grown son. Tim Warren of The Alternate Routes joined them for an awesome cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California.” I was pumped to hear “Angeline.” Adam Gardner of Guster and Reverb fame joined Martin and Duke for “Glory Bound.” It was a nice surprise. I was beside myself during “Hallelujah”—it was a transcendent experience and it meant a lot to me to hear it live again. I would have loved to hear “Black Sheep,” too, but I probably would have cried. “Hallelujah” brought me just to the edge anyhow.

The extraordinary Martin Sexton

The extraordinary Martin Sexton

Marty looks a lot like Jack Black, too.

Marty looks a lot like Jack Black, too.

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Duke Levine joins Martin onstage

Duke Levine joins Martin onstage

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Tim Warren of The Alternate Routes back for a song

Tim Warren of The Alternate Routes back for a song

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Adam Gardner joined Marty and Duke for a tune, too

Adam Gardner joined Marty and Duke for a tune, too

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So much Marty love from these fans!

So much Marty love from these fans!

By that point in the night (heck—early in the evening, too), people were dancing in the aisles and raising their hands as if in praise. It was a magical night. Martin told us he’d put together a five song EP of old but important songs that was $5 or “free if you’re out of work.” He played Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” to wrap up his glorious set. Martin came back to play “The Way I Am” for an incredibly appreciative crowd. The song finishes with some serious yodeling. Martin Sexton is a gem. Thank you so much for the gift of you and your music, Martin Sexton. I worship in your Temple.

xo,

bree

PS–This show was recorded and you can buy it online! If you sent Team Martin Sexton a picture any Martin Sexton ticket stub, they sent you a code for a free download. How awesome!

Martin Sexton Live from the State Theatre!

Martin Sexton Live from the State Theatre!

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Check out Caitlin Canty’s sophomore album, Golden Hour

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

I don’t think I’ve ever been caught up on blogging. Ever. It’s pretty awesome. My dear friend and uber outdoorsman Chris Bartlett is writing a guest post about the fantastic Martin Sexton show we saw a little over a week ago, so I had some free time to finally tell you about Caitlin Canty’s delightful fan-funded sophomore album, Golden HourI’m on my way to Boston to see Mumford & Sons tonight, so I’ll be back to writing tomorrow.

I first saw Vermont-native singer-songwriter Caitlin Canty completely by accident when I was at a Jeffrey Foucault show back in May of 2012 at One Longfellow Square and he called her up on stage to sing a couple of songs. I was immediately struck by her lovely voice, and we chatted a bit after the show. I learned she was in Portland recording her second album Golden Hour. I was already excited to see her headline a show, even though I haven’t been able to make that happen just yet.

Jeffrey Foucault and Caitlin Canty

Jeffrey Foucault and Caitlin Canty at OLS in May 2012

We stayed in touch, and Caitlin kindly sent Golden Hour to me after it was released in early October. I love it. Her voice is strong and clear but still delicate. It’s got country grit and it’s dark in places—which is an interesting juxtaposition to her sweet, airy voice. I’m at a bit of a loss to name my favorite songs on the album. I listen to it all the way through quite often. I think the truly haunting “Do Not Stand At My Grave” stands out. “Never Again” laments the mistakes we make without being self pitying. I like the lyrics “where did my time go/your sugar coated words sounded rehearsed/but if I have another one/just one poetry will come/I’m too old to be this young.”

Canty’s cover of Darlingside’s “Sweet and Low” reveals parts of the song I hadn’t noticed before. I am thrilled to have discovered Darlingside in 2012. Their show was easily one of the best shows I saw in 2012 (I saw 45, so that means something). Here’s a video of some of Darlingside covering Damien Rice’s “Volcano” with Canty. Sam Kapala of Darlingside recorded and co-produced Golden Hour. Most of the members of Darlingside (who also went to Williams College and are good friends of Canty’s) also lent their vocal and instrumental talents to the album. Canty’s been touring lately with Harris Paseltiner, Darlingside’s virtuoso cellist.

Darlingside

Darlingside at OLS in September 2012

Good things are happening for Caitlin Canty, and they are well deserved. Her music is in rotation on the “Country and Folk” channel on Lufthansa flights. Her second album has been well received. People are getting out to see her live. Check out this glowing look at Caitlin’s career that includes a lot of biographical information. I love knowing where a musician comes from and what’s inspired them. Check out Canty’s touring schedule here. I hope to see you at one of her shows sometime soon!

xo,

bree

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Ellis Paul and Friends with Heather Maloney

Saturday, December 29, 2012

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

I was especially excited about this Ellis Paul show (my 39th) because my best friend Meg (who lives in Panama) had never seen him before. We’d tried to go to a New Year’s Eve show together at Club Passim once, but a friend got sick on the T on the way to the show and we had to go straight home. It was heartbreaking.

Meg’s manfriend Andreas was visiting from Germany, so we met up at Asmara for Eritrean food in Portland before the show. It was really snowing, and we had a frigid walk to One Longfellow Square. OLS was pretty full when we got there well before the show started (you know how I like to be close), but we were able to snag three seats together in the second row on the aisle. I scanned the room and saw some familiar Ellis fans. I noticed a woman sitting front and center who I could tell right away was a super fan. I leaned over and told Meg that she’d find a way to talk to Ellis on stage in the first five minutes of his set. I totally called it.

Heather Maloney opened the show after the first introduction I’d ever seen at OLS that prominently featured a juice box. Originally from New Jersey and now living in Northampton, Mass., I was surprised when she told us that she’d never seen Ellis live before. The thing I remember most about her set was that her mom is a therapist and it’s influenced Heather’s life and songs.

An OLS juice box introduction

An OLS juice box introduction

Heather Maloney

Heather Maloney

I liked “Nightstand Drawer,” her four-string parlor sized guitar, voice, and vocal range. She was a good fingerpicker, too. She wrote “Dirt & Stardust” about a female rambler while staying in a friend’s guest room with ugly wood paneling. I appreciated her shout out to her hardworking single mom who’d gone to school to become a psychotherapist while receiving welfare assistance for a couple of years. She intended for “Grace” to be an angry response to a Tea Party supporter she’d seen holding up a sign chastising people receiving public assistance, but it turned into a kinder song about her mom and hardworking moms everywhere.

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At some point I realized Heather sounded a bit like Ani DiFranco. I liked her new song, “Rubbernecker” (it’s working title). She was very grateful to us for being a listening audience and was excited for her first Ellis show. She joked (but it was true because of the weather) that she’d risked her life to get to the show. The roads were starting to get bad on my drive to Portland. I wasn’t looking forward to my drive home at all. I liked “Turn Yourself Around,” a song inspired by a sleepless night and a list she’d written of all of the reasons she was a bad person. I especially enjoyed her last song, “No Shortcuts,” which was a cappella and included some audience participation in the form of percussion a la “We Will Rock You.” It was her best song. Check her music out here.

Ellis took the stage and revealed early on both that he had a cold and that this was his rehearsal with Don Conoscenti (who’d traveled from Taos, New Mexico) and Radoslav Lorkovic (who’d come from Chicago) for their annual New Year’s Eve shows in Cambridge, Mass. at Club Passim. I’ve written a couple of posts this year about Ellis. I saw him on January 1st, 2012—a great way to start the year right, I thought, and again in September. I was excited to bookend 2012 with Ellis shows.

Don Con, Ellis, and Rad

Don Con, Ellis, and Rad–blurry, but adorable

Ellis Paul

Ellis Paul

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Before the show, I chatted with a couple that was also at the Ellis show in January of 2004 at the Chocolate Church in Bath when the pipes were frozen and there was no heat. It was fun to reminisce about the show. I remember going out to my car during the intermission to grab my emergency car blanket. Ellis pointed me with my blanket out to the audience during the second half of his show and chuckled. I wouldn’t have sat through a show under those circumstances for anyone else.

I think Ellis sounded far better than he thought he did. He opened with a “Chasing Beauty,” which will be on his new fan funded album (I’ve already sent in my check and you can, too).  He played a song I’d never heard before—a new one about the Empire State Building. “Snow in Austin” was next and he talked about his new Christmas album, City of Silver Dreams, that is just out and that he spent five years writing.

Fan funded album info

Fan funded album info

We got to sing along on “3,000 Miles,” and “Alice’s Champagne Palace.” He’d just played at Alice’s Champagne Palace in Homer, Alaska and the lyrics to the song are above the bar. “Rose Tattoo” was up next. It was certainly by that point in the evening when I’d lost patience with the surely well intentioned woman front and center—the Ellis super fan. I love Ellis. I’ve been to 39 Ellis shows. I do not need the audience to pay attention to me during one of his shows, though. CONCERT ETTIQUETTE TIP: Please, please, please—do NOT sing along except when the artist has asked you to. NO ONE paid to come listen to you. If I’d been sitting any closer, I definitely would have asked her to cut it out. Ellis joked with her later in the show that if he forgot any of the lyrics, he’d just look to her because she was a human teleprompter (imagine that), but if he couldn’t read her lips (I doubt it), he would just pick up her cue because she was singing along the whole time. Ugh.

Don Conoscenti

Don Conoscenti

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“Walking After Midnight” was up next. Team Ellis ran a video contest a few years ago asking people to make and submit videos for that song. I think this one was the winner. Ellis, Don, and Rad always perform a few covers for the New Year’s Eve shows, but options were limited for them because of Ellis’ cold. They played just one this year for us at the practice show, Dave Loggins’ “Please Come to Boston.” We all enjoyed the verse they added to include Portland in the song—it referenced 20 inches of snow, Three Dollar Deweys, and Shipyard beer. I especially liked the song because Don and Rad each took a verse—both are talented singers, even if we don’t hear a lot of lead vocals from them.

Ellis sneaking up on Rad

Ellis sneaking up on Rad

Don Con hit the high notes for Ellis on “Maria’s Beautiful Mess,” which I think is one of his best-loved songs. I really love “Mary, Mary” from City of Silver Dreams. It’s a lovely song about Mary (you know, Jesus’ mother), who Ellis said “doesn’t get enough credit.” I particularly like the lyric “Born to a mad world/Weren’t you once a young girl?” They played my friend Michelle’s favorite, “Kick Out the Lights,” next—a song about when Johnny Cash famously kicked out the stage footlights at the Grand Ole Opry.

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I was thrilled to see that Rad’s beloved accordion was back in his arms again. It’s a long story, but it was stolen, there was a reward, and it was recently returned to him after many months apart. Check out the story here. They played “Hurricane Angel” next (my students and I just talked about Hurricane Katrina in class yesterday, actually) and then “The World Ain’t Slowin’ Down,” which required more audience participation. Ellis joked with the woman in the front row that he knew he could count on her to sing (insert story about the human teleprompter from above here). He sort of jokingly asked her if she’d be there to help him out at the New Year’s Eve shows (obviously, yes!). When he asked if anyone else would be there, there were crickets. I went for it. He did ask, right? I said that I wouldn’t be there this year, but that I’d gone for eight years. He wanted a good reason why I’d skip such a good time. I pointed at Meg and Andreas visiting from Panama and Germany, respectively. It turned into the multicultural portion of the evening. Ellis asked Andreas if he could understand the show (how considerate), which he could (I hope). Ellis asked Rad to say something in his native Croatian to show how international they were onstage. Rad told us (in Croatian) that his grandfather had studied in Berlin. Don Con spoke in Italian. Ellis joked that he was from Presque Isle, Maine, but had English down.

Radoslav Lorkovic and his beloved red accordion

Radoslav Lorkovic and his beloved red accordion

Ellis, Don Con, and Rad unplugged and came out into the audience to play a couple last songs for us. “Annalee” was first. Ellis welcomed people who’d traveled for the show—people from Chicago, “obviously Panama and Germany,” his niece (who he reminded to stop by and say hi after the show), and people from the County (his homeland). They wrapped up their set with “Christmas Lullaby,” a song I hadn’t heard before that Johnny Mathis might put on his next Christmas album. It’s always great to see Ellis, Don Con, and Rad, and it was a great show to wrap up 2012 with.

xo,

bree

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